by Jon Styf
Tennessee has committed to more than $60 million in FastTrack economic incentive grants to businesses this year after committing more than $200 million of the grants to businesses in 2021.
FastTrack grants are state grants sent to local governments for specific infrastructure improvements or to companies to help offset the costs of expanding or moving into the state with the goal of increasing the number of full-time jobs and the average wages of jobs available in an area.
Economists, however, have said that those incentives paid to businesses do not help a state or provide economic benefits but academic research shows that they do lead to large political donations and political benefit to politicians who spearhead the deals.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee was set to be the keynote speaker at the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development, which finished Tuesday at the Omni Hotel in Nashville, but Main Street Nashville reported that the incentive amounts were not mentioned at the conference, which celebrated the projects that received those grants.
Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development comes to an agreement with a business to award a grant based upon the investment and new jobs that will come with the business’ move to Tennessee or expansion within the state.
Then the department announced a project is coming to the state in a press release, like a recent announcement that TN Composites is expanding in Dickson County. But the TNECD has refused to announce the incentive grant that goes along with a project during those announcements, instead adding the incentives to a database of projects with contracts and projects with pending contracts.
This year, $60 million in incentive deals have been added to the database including a group of six million-dollar deals last month that combined to cost taxpayers $22.5 million.
Last year’s total did not include the nearly $1 billion in incentives for Ford to build its $5.6 billion Blue Oval City electric truck facility outside of Memphis but did include $65 million in state funds for Oracle’s new base in Nashville and $60 million for the new Ultium Cells project next to General Motors’ plant in Spring Hill.
It also will likely not include incentives headed to the Tennessee Titans in a deal expected to include at least $1.5 billion in public funds for a new estimated $2.2 billion stadium in Nashville.
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Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Styf is a reporter for The Center Square.
Photo “Bill Lee” by Bill Lee.